BERLIN -- BMW and Continental are the latest auto companies to offer free coronavirus self-tests to their German employees, following similar moves by Audi, Volkswagen, Daimler and others.
BMW started handing out the self-tests to the workforce at its plant in Leipzig, Germany, last week and said the distribution of more than half a million tests would take place after Easter.
The automaker also recommended self-testing be done on a voluntary basis at home to detect possible infections early.
Continental said starting this week, it would provide each employee at German sites with one free self-test per week.
A Continental spokesperson said the tests are an additional measure that would not replace the existing hygiene concepts, such as the minimum distances required between individual workplaces.
VW's plan to make antigen self-tests available free of charge to all employees at its German sites twice a week begins in April.
In addition to coronavirus self-tests, BMW also voiced support for facilitating vaccinations, and said it could use the expertise of its logistics and IT departments to support the handling of the vaccination strategy.
"Our company doctors are ready," a BMW spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Automotive News Europe. "We have set up the necessary infrastructure and as soon as we get the approved vaccines, we will get started."
The spokesperson added that with the possibility of being vaccinated in companies, BMW could make a contribution to closing vaccination gaps and thus, offer improved protection to the general population against infection.
Continental and VW also said it was ready to provide company-facilitated corona vaccinations for its employees.
"Our company physicians are on standby," a Continental spokesperson said in an email. "In Germany alone, more than 1,000 employees could be vaccinated daily in our plant medical services."
In a statement provided to Automotive News Europe, VW said its healthcare unit was prepared to carry out vaccinations and reiterated its offer to support the implementation of the German vaccination strategy.
"Volkswagen can directly reach around 140,000 people in vaccinating its employees alone, including its subsidiaries," the statement said. "We can make an immediate contribution to improving the implementation of the national vaccination strategy."
The statement noted that as long as there is not enough vaccine on the market, the company would refrain from buying their own vaccine doses.
Automotive companies in the automotive industry, including many small and medium-sized enterprises, and their company physicians, were "constantly intensifying" their efforts in this area within the scope of the possibilities and availability of tests, said Hildegard Mueller, president of the VDA industry association.
"We are also prepared to do more," Mueller said in an emailed statement. "We can and want to support the public sector in its vaccination strategy, and we'd rather do it today than tomorrow."